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Archive for May, 2011

“Lagom” and other adverbs

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re enjoying the spring!

One of my readers came up with a quite interesting question about adverbs. Here it is:

“I’ve been practicing using bisats in various word order and am enjoying the challenge, but I have a new question… how do you know when an adverb is a sentence adverbial? For example, ganska is an adverb, but it still goes after the verb, even when used in a bisats (according to my sas teacher)..

eg, jag vet att hon är ganska lång.

But kanske changes order in a bisats…

eg, Jag vet att hon kanske kommer.

how do you know which adverb changes order and which stays put?”

Well, there are many different types of adverbs and this can for sure be confusing. In today’s post we’ll take a closer look at different adverbs, how to recognize them and where to place them in a sentence.

Frågande adverb (question adverbs)

I’m sure you already most of the question adverbs

När? (when)

Var? (where)


Varifrån? (from where)

Hur? (how)

Varför? (why)

One important thing  to remember  is the difference between “var” (where) and “vart” (where to). You have to use “vart” when the verb in your question indicates moving, for example “åka”, “komma” or “springa”.

Var bor du?

(Where do you live?)

Vart ska du åka på semester?

(Where (to) are you going on holiday/vacation?)

The question adverbs are of course always placed in the beginning of a sentence when it’s a direct question. The question adverbs can also be placed in the beginning of a subordinated clause (bisats) in a indirect question. Here’s one example:

Han undrar var du bor.

(He’s wondering where you live.)

Tidsadverb (time adverbs)

Another important group of adverbs/adverbials are the time expressions. The easiest way to figure out the time adverb in your sentence is to ask when did something happen or how often does something happen. I’m quite sure that you have seen these time adverbs before:

idag (today)

igår (yesterday)

i morgon (tomorrow)

numera (these days)

snart (soon)

nyligen (recently)

These adverbs can either be placed in the beginning or in the end of a sentence, like this:

Idag är det fint väder.

Det är fint väder idag.

Okay that wasn’t so bad, but now it’s getting a little more complicated. Some of the adverbs that expresses frequency (how often something happens) are more flexible in terms of where in a sentence we can place them, many of them can for example be put in the sentence adverb position. Here are some examples:

Lisa går ofta till gymmet på lördagar.

(Lisa – goes – often – to the gym – on Saturdays)

Ofta går Lisa till gymmet på lördagar.

(Often – goes – Lisa – to the gym – on Saturdays.)

Ibland går Lisa till gymmet på lördagar.

(Sometimes- goes – Lisa – to the gym – on Saturdays.)

Lisa går ibland till gymmet på lördagar.

(Lisa – goes – sometimes – to the gym – on  Saturdays.)

If I don’t have any other time expression I can also place “ibland” in the end of the sentence, like this:

Lisa går till gymmet ibland.

There are a couple of frequency adverbs that are more tricky than the others: alltid (always) and aldrig (never). I tend to think of them as satsadverb (sentence adverbs) since they are placed in the sentence adverb position. Take a look at this:

Lisa går alltid till gymmet på lördagar.

På lördagar går Lisa alltid  till gymmet.

Lisa går alltid till gymmet.

It’s very rare to place “alltid” or “aldrig” in the first position in a sentence. If you do, it means that you strongly accentuate “alltid”/”aldrig” and it will sound a bit dramatic or poetic.

Satsadverb (sentence adverbs)

How can you tell if an adverb is a sentence adverb (“satsadverb” in Swedish)? The sentence adverbs are the adverbs that change the mood of the whole clause or sentence. Let me show you what I mean with some examples:

Jörgen jobbar övertid.

(Jörgen – is working – overtime.)

This is just a plain statement; Jörgen is working overtime.

Jörgen jobbar inte övertid.

(Jörgen – is working – not – overtime.)

In this case the sentence adverb (inte) is changing the whole meaning.

Jörgen jobbar nog övertid.

(Jörgen – is working – probably – overtime.)

Maybe Jörgen hasn’t come home yet and we’re wondering why. We’re assuming that he’s still at work, maybe because he often works overtime.

Jörgen jobbar kanske övertid.

(Jörgen – is working – maybe – overtime.)

Also in this case we’re wondering what Jörgen is up to and we’re guessing that he’s working overtime.

Jörgen jobbar gärna övertid.

(Jörgen – works – gladly – overtime.)

Well, in this case we not only get to know that Jörgen works overtime, we also get to know that he is happy to do it :)

The sentence adverbs have different positions in the independent clause (huvudsats) and in the subordinate clause (bisats). In a independent clause we must place the sentence adverb directly after the first verb, like this:

Jörgen jobbar inte övertid idag.

Jörgen jobbar gärna övertid imorgon.

In a subordinate clause (bisats) we must put the sentence adverb before the first verb. Let’s make the two examples above indirect sentences and see what they look like:

Jörgen säger att han inte behöver jobba övertid idag.

Jörgen har sagt till sin chef  att han gärna  jobbar övertid imorgon.

Sättsadverb (manner adverbs) & gradadverb (grade adverbs)

The blog reader who posted the question about adverbs has noticed that some adverbs don’t change position. That’s absolutely correct, adverbs that say something about the verb and describe how we’re doing something (manner adverbs) always stay with the verb. Take a look at these examples:

Anita sjunger vackert.

(Anita – sings – beautifully)

Lasse springer snabbt.

(Lasse – runs – quickly)

Göran sov gott i natt.

(Göran – slept – well – last night)

Helena klär sig modernt.

(Helena – dresses – fashionably)

Also the adverbs that answer the question “how much” or “how little” stays with the verb or the adjective they describe. The adverb “ganska” (fairly, pretty) is a grade adverb giving extra information about the adjective “lång” and must therefore stay next to the verb no matter if it is in a independent clause or a subordinate clause. Please enjoy a couple examples of how to grade adverbs:

Kristina är mycket duktig på att dansa.

Kristina is not just good at dancing, she is very good.

Det är lagom varmt ute idag.

This grade adverb means “just right” and can be combined with almost any adjective or other adverbs; lagom stor, lagom liten, lagom mycket, lagom varmt, lagom kallt etc There is even a low fat butter spread called “Lätt & Lagom”. I guess it’s not too low fat, it’s “lagom” low fat 😉

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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